November and December are big spending months—in 2022 holiday sales surpassed $960 billion.

The holidays are also a time to give back, and there are affordable ways to make a meaningful impact this season.

The holiday season is officially in full-swing, and if last year’s numbers are any indication, November and December will be high-spend months for most of us. According to the folks over at the National Retail Federation (NRF), sales reached $963.3 billion last year—a 5.3% increase from 2021.

Amid traveling, holiday feasting, and gift shopping, it’s important to remind yourself that the holidays aren’t just about spending. This is also a time to give to those in need, and there are several ways you can do that even if your bank account is feeling the impact of inflation and high interest.

Set a Budget

Just like any other expense you’re accounting for, it’s wise to allocate a specific amount of money that you are comfortable with. Maybe it’s a one-time sum you plan for or smaller recurring donations beginning this month. Either way, if funds are extra tight this year, don’t feel discouraged! We’ve offered ideas for other ways you can give back this season.

Make it Count

Before making any contributions, research charitable organizations to ensure your money is being used effectively. Look for organizations with a transparent track record, low administrative costs, and a proven commitment to supporting their mission. Websites like Charity Navigator can help you evaluate nonprofits and provide Highly Rated lists if you need a place to start.

Volunteer Your Time

During November and December many of us rely on the hospitality and hosting of friends or families, but that’s not a given for everyone. Time spent with someone—whether that’s offering hot meals at a shelter or volunteering to help with a holiday event—is an impactful gesture. Check out VolunteerMatch to find ways you can get involved within your local community.

Donate Goods

Another meaningful and budget-friendly way to give back this season is to donate new or gently used goods to local charities or shelters. Many organizations appreciate donations of clothing, blankets, canned foods, hygiene essentials, books, and toys. Reach out to the organization directly to find out what’s most needed (sometimes these lists will be posted to their website as well.) Charitable donations are tax-deductible so be sure to save your receipts after you donate.

Start a Giving Circle

Pooling resources with friends, family, or colleagues to create a giving circle is a great way to amplify charitable donation. Each member contributes a small amount of money, and collectively, you can choose a charity or cause to support. Check out Grapevine if you’d like to join an existing circle—there are more than 800 you can choose from.

Utilize Workplace Giving Programs

If your employer offers workplace giving programs, take advantage of them. These programs often allow you to donate a small portion of your paycheck to a charitable cause of your choice. Additionally, some employers may even match your contributions, effectively doubling your impact without any extra expense on your part.

Give the Gift of Charity

If you aren’t sure what to gift someone this year—here’s an idea: give the gift of charity. You can donate in their name to a cause they deeply care about. The benefits here are twofold: making a meaningful impact on behalf of someone you care for and alleviating the financial burden of expensive gift purchases.

Give Year-Round

Charitable giving doesn’t have to be limited to the holiday season, and even small donations like $10-$20 per month count. Consider incorporating giving into your regular monthly budget. By making smaller, recurring donations throughout the year, you can support your chosen causes consistently while still honoring your financial limitations.

Need help creating a holiday budget or making room in yours for charitable giving? Get organized with our Holiday Budget Sheet or connect with one of our friendly counselors—financial counseling at GreenPath is cost-free, judgment-free, and designed to help you achieve your goals this season and beyond.